BUFFALO – The subtle plays Sabres rookie Jack Quinn often makes belie his limited experience and showcase his growing maturity.
To wit: Sabres coach Don Granato said the winger has learned how to utilize his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame and absorb a hit by taking his stick off the puck.
He said Quinn, who gives up size to many opponents, might move a foot while the puck could slide about two feet. Still, it’s within reach.
If he had left his stick on it, it might move 10 feet, and he would lose possession.
“Lots of incredible subtleties when you watch him play that he offsets through intelligence and skill,” Granato said prior to Friday’s 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers at KeyBank Center. “He offsets the fact that he doesn’t have size and strength yet. …
“When he gets size and strength, I see on video 10 to 15 times a game where he, next year, will literally just plow through the guy that actually got a piece of him and slowed him. He won’t be slowed.”
Quinn’s development has accelerated in just the past week or two. He has been playing more aggressively, often holding the puck and creating offense each game.
“Just time, more and more time in the league, more games, just more and more confident,” Quinn said of why his play has recently elevated. “I feel like my role’s gotten bigger, kind of, as the year’s went on. It’s allowed me to grow and grow.”
In Monday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Quinn skated 18 minutes, 4 seconds, his second-highest total this season. He has earned more trust and responsibility – he has emerged as a top penalty killer – because he’s playing with what Granato called an “incredible” maturity.
“We can give him an opportunity and there’s no hesitation for me to give him ice time because he’s responsible,” Granato said.
Quinn’s off-ice work has buoyed his success. Granato often talks about how the youngster studies film and targets areas of his game.
“It’s almost like he’s studied it to the point where there is no anxiety in his game,” he said. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing. There’s less anxiety in Jack Quinn’s game because of more intelligence, reading plays and knowing situations.”
Quinn said Granato’s belief means a lot.
“At the same time, I think what gives me confidence is I know I’m playing well,” said Quinn, the eighth overall pick in 2020. “I can play that role.”
Of course, Quinn’s first season has been difficult at times. On a couple of occasions, he has been scratched to essentially take a step back and reset. He endured a 13-game goal drought early.
But entering Friday’s game, he had compiled 14 goals and 34 points in 66 contests, offensive numbers that ranked seventh and sixth, respectively, among rookies.
“Lots of ups and down,” Quinn said of his season. “You’re playing well and you think like you’ll go up, but then you have a tough stretch and things get tough. So I think it’s almost irresponsible to think that’s not going to happen. At every level I’ve kind of gone through that.”
Sabres defenseman Mattias Samuelsson returned Friday from an upper-body injury that sidelined him eight games.
To make room on the blue line, they scratched Riley Stillman.
Meanwhile, winger Jordan Greenway returned from a four-game absence (upper body)
Sabres center Tage Thompson missed his second straight game recovering from an upper-body injury. Granato said there’s a “slight” chance Thompson could return for tonight’s road game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Sabres also scratched defenseman Kale Clague (healthy), winger Vinnie Hinostroza (healthy) and goalies Craig Anderson (upper body) and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (healthy).